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Writing Lives


Willa Cather warns us that “[t]here are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” If that’s true, will the person who had mine please write to say how it all turned out?

Rummaging through a pile of books slumped by my bedside, I found a paperback copy (bought to replace the hardback version I can’t seem to locate) of John Howland Spyker’s Little Lives, a 1979 title that has kept my attention for lo these forty years. It’s one of those chance encounters that I’ve passed along to friends. For a quick orientation, look for it on NeglectedBooks.com or GoodReads. You’ll thank me.

To say that Spyker (pseudonym of Richard Elman) attempts what Edgar Lee Masters had accomplished in Spoon River Anthology sixty years earlier is to diminish each of those works. For me they were instructive, offering lessons that I’m still learning fourteen years into this project.


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